The Always War
Fifteen-year-old Tessa Stilfin lives in a world of pain, despair and fighting, just as her parents and grandparents did before her. There is little in which to take pride, and the war promises to last forever. So when her next-door neighbor Gideon, a young pilot in the army, wins a medal for courage, the entire city shows up for the awards ceremony. Tessa is so proud of the heroic soldier and more than anyone is shocked when he refuses the award in front of everybody, claiming he is a coward.
"THE ALWAYS WAR has a fast-paced story line with many end-of-chapter cliffhangers urging the reader to continue."
Tessa sneaks into Gideon’s apartment to speak with him. He confesses that he murdered over 2,000 innocent people on one of his missions, and the guilt gnaws on him unmercifully. Tessa longs to help him; he is her hero and her only string of hope in this bleak world. So when she catches him sneaking out into the night, she follows him.
However, in her pursuit, Tessa accidentally stows away on his airplane, and Gideon takes off with her still aboard. He flies them over the boundary into the war zone, and intends to confess his sins to the enemy and accept whatever punishment they dish out, including death. But what they discover leads to the uncovering of an unimaginable secret that could change their lives forever.
Margaret Peterson Haddix seems to have an unlimited supply of ideas and characters just begging for the chance to be part of her next novel. Like her other books, THE ALWAYS WAR has a fast-paced story line with many end-of-chapter cliffhangers urging the reader to continue. Tessa is likable and believable, complete with both dreams and a few flaws. She is desperate for a bit of hope and continuously reaches for any possible prospect, despite feeling inadequate in intelligence and experience.
Gideon is a bit of an unusual hero. He is a well-trained soldier and vastly intelligent, but is also very emotional and often breaks down in tears with his consuming guilt. He is overly eager to offer himself up for sacrifice to correct his misdeed, which both endears him to Tessa and frustrates her a bit.
Both prove that it’s not an easy task to play the brave hero, and that one should always take responsibility for one’s actions. I also enjoyed the clever clues littered throughout that hinted at the unexpected ending. Haddix delivers yet another intriguing and thought-provoking novel.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on December 18, 2011